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Each week, we’ll talk to our reporters on the ground to get their thoughts on the biggest happenings during the college football season. This week, we look at UCF’s continued dominance, check in on the surprising success of the Herm Edwards experiment at Arizona State and examine if Florida can still make a run at the SEC title despite the loss of its quarterback for the season.
UCF showing no signs of slowing
There were some people that assumed when UCF lost to LSU in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, the Knights would start to come back to Earth after a winning streak that spanned two seasons. But if the start of the 2019 season is any indication, the Knights plan on being a thorn in the side of the College Football Playoff establishment for years to come. On Saturday, UCF welcomed Stanford to Orlando and before the Cardinal even had a chance to adjust to the Florida humidity the Knights were well on their way to victory. Led by true freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel, UCF opened a 38-7 lead and won 45-27. So are the Knights primed for their third consecutive undefeated regular season?
We checked in with UCFSports.com’s Brandon Helwig to talk about the Knights’ win and the emergence of Gabriel and what it might mean for the rest of the season.
“UCF, 28-1 since the beginning of the 2017 season, certainly passes the eye test to be considered among college football's elite teams. But because the Knights do not reside in the Power Five, national pollsters assume they can't possibly be as good. That's why the 45-27 win against Stanford was so important. The jury is still out on this year's Cardinal team, but it does make a statement when you dominate one of the PAC-12's top programs of the last 10 years.
And the score doesn't accurately reflect what happened on the field. Even though it was still a lopsided score, it felt like much more of a blowout. UCF led 38-7 at halftime and took their foot off the pedal in the second half since the game was clearly in hand.
The story of the game was true freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who connected on 22-of-30 passes for 347 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. While UCF is loaded at every other offensive position, quarterback had been somewhat of a question mark since McKenzie Milton went down with a devastating leg injury late last season. Darriel Mack Jr., last year's backup, broke his ankle during the summer so that left Notre Dame grad transfer Brandon Wimbush and Gabriel as the frontrunners during camp. Wimbush ultimately got the starter nod in Week 1, though Gabriel did play. Gabriel got his first start in Week 2 at FAU, but after this performance it's probably safe to say the QB question has been answered.
Despite what some might perceive as setbacks — Scott Frost leaving after the 2017 season and Josh Heupel and a new staff taking over, plus Milton's injury — UCF continues rolling. Now, after getting past Stanford, another undefeated regular season certainly isn't out of the question.”
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Are Herm’s Sun Devils Pac-12 contenders?
When Herm Edwards was hired by Arizona State two years ago, College Football Twitter had a field day at his expense. From Edwards seemingly not knowing that the Devils were ASU’s mascot at his introductory press conference to his vision for running a college program like an NFL franchise, plenty of people assumed Edwards would flop in Tempe. But after making a bowl game in his first year at the helm in 2018, Edward and the Sun Devils appear poised to take the next step this season, and Saturday’s 10-7 road victory at Michigan State is further proof. So is Edwards’ vision really coming to fruition? Can the Sun Devils challenge Utah for a spot in the Pac-12 title game?
We asked ASUDevils.com’s Hod Rabino to give his thoughts on the school’s hot start and Edwards success since he arrived in Tempe.
“In many respects, Arizona State's 10-7 win over Michigan State played exactly to the expected script and was a mere carbon copy of the Sun Devils’ 16-13 win over the Spartans in Tempe in 2018.
We certainly got the defensive standoff we anticipated but the difference on Saturday was that even though ASU surrendered 404 yards of total offense, they only allowed seven points for the third straight game this year. On offense, the Sun Devils were struggling quite a bit for nearly the entire 60 minutes, but a late fourth-quarter 75-yard scoring drive earned them a precious touchdown and an improbable victory against a ranked opponent on the road, a feat that Arizona State did not achieve since 1997 (beating Miami).
It's no secret that when Herm Edwards was hired prior to the 2018 season that this was a personnel move that was met with a healthy dose of skepticism if not downright ridicule. To a large extent, Edwards was able to silence the critics with a winning record last year, and despite ASU being once again a very young team this season, with 28 freshmen and redshirt freshmen already seeing the field in the team's first three games of 2019, ASU has been grinding out one win after another.
By and large, the defense and special teams units have been formidable, if not downright impressive in some instances. The belief is that once the offense can get on track and develop a good sense of rhythm, which has been largely hindered by several personnel moves on the offensive line, that we can see an Arizona State team that can not only maximize every ounce of potential they have but perhaps even overachieve.
With a wide-open Pac-12 South I thought back in the preseason that Arizona State can contend for the championship of this division just like it did last year and I haven't seen anything in this young 2019 season to make me think otherwise. ASU opens Pac-12 play this week against Colorado at home and follows that up with a visit to Cal before entering their bye week. A 5-0 record is hardly a given, but then again their current 3-0 mark wasn't generally the popular prediction for this juncture of the campaign.
For good or for bad, I don’t know if any undefeated team this year has labored as hard as Arizona State has to achieve a 3-0 record. If their offense can quickly match the level play of the defense and special teams, 2019 can certainly develop into one the best seasons we’ve seen this century by this program.”
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Gators escape Kentucky, can they still win SEC East?
Down 10 points to Kentucky in the fourth quarter and with their starting quarterback Feleipe Franks out for the season, things were starting to look bleak for the Florida Gators on Saturday night. But then Kyle Trask came along. The Gators backup quarterback came in and looked like a seasoned veteran as he led Florida to a come-from-behind victory over Kentucky and might have just salvaged the school’s shot at an SEC East title in the process. So what does Saturday’s win mean for the Gators? And can Trask prove to be more than just a one-hit wonder?
We asked Corey Bender of GatorsTerritory.com to give his thoughts on Florida’s win and outlook for the rest of the season.
“With injuries at key positions and a run game that ranks 83rd in the nation, there is no doubting UF has a whole lot of room for growth, but you can't overlook the squad's grit and poise.
Kyle Trask looked unfazed filling in for Feleipe Franks. He did a nice job of improvising when needed and completed some difficult throws while defenders were closing on him. The good thing for Trask is the offensive line has been stellar in pass protection, but the Gators must establish somewhat of a presence on the ground to take pressure off him. That's arguably the top priority moving forward.
Trask's performance was inspiring, but you can't transform into a pass-first team with your starting QB now sidelined for the remainder of the season. Lamical Perine entered the season as the clear-cut No. 1 option at running back, and now it's time to see Malik Davis and Dameon Pierce receive more carries as well.
Freshman cornerback Kaiir Elam has already recorded two interceptions, but getting CJ Henderson back in the lineup will be a nice boost. Linebackers David Reese and Ventrell Miller have been productive thus far, while Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga form one of the more premier tandems at defensive end.
Many questions surround the team heading into Tennessee week, with the majority of them on the offensive side of the ball.
This is the University of Florida and the expectations don't change, especially with the team sitting at 3-0.”
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